Adam Silver Sends Heartfelt Message Amid Passing of Knicks Icon Willis Reed

Willis Reed Knicks

Getty New York Knicks legend Willis Reed in 2004.

Two-time NBA champion, seven-time All-Star and New York Knicks legend Willis Reed passed away on Tuesday, former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Bill Bradley confirmed (via the New York Times). He was 80 years old.

The Louisiana native, whose 12,183 points in a Knicks uniform still rank third in franchise history, had been suffering from congestive heart issues.

In the wake of Reed’s passing, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a heartfelt statement on what the former player, coach and executive meant to the game of basketball, the league and himself.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader. My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s,” wrote Silver, via NBA PR.

“He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports. As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gail, his family and his many friends and fans.”

Knicks Legend Willis Reed’s Game 7 Comeback Is an All-Time NBA Moment

Reed spent his entire 10-year career with the Knicks from 1964 to 1974. Along the way, “The Captain” set the gold standard for what it means to represent the Big Apple. Of all his big moments, though, the aforementioned comeback against Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers is the one that has become etched in the Association’s annals.

After suffering a torn right tensor muscle during Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, Reed was scratched from the lineup for Game 6 at the Forum in LA. As a result, Chamberlain dropped a series-high 45 points and the Lakers were able to secure a 135-113 win to even the series at three games apiece.

When the decisive Game 7 rolled around just two days later, Knicks fans were unsure whether they would see Reed on the hardwood. And those anxieties were heightened when he didn’t enter the court alongside his teammates just before tip-off.

However, the clearly laboring baller emerged from the tunnel moments later, igniting an uproarious reaction from the New York faithful and raising the eyebrows of the players who were warming up on the court.

Ultimately, Reed was limited to just four points on 2-of-5 shooting in 27 minutes of action. But the Knicks were still able to win the game — and, in the process, their first title — by a 113-99 mark.

Moreover, Reed’s dramatic march onto the hardwood and the drive he had to play through the pain of his injury has inspired Knicks fans and basketball people in general for generations, just as it did his teammates and the fans in attendance.

Bill Bradley Recounts Reed’s Return

In speaking with the New York Post, Bradley gave a veritable play-by-play of Reed’s comeback from his perspective as a Knicks player.

“We were all out warming up, and we know that he was probably gonna take a shot,” Bradley told The Post. “Although, quite frankly, I didn’t know he was gonna take a shot. But [Dave] DeBusschere said he knew.

“And when he came out, it was like electricity coursed through the whole arena. I remember [Elgin] Baylor, [Jerry] West and [Wilt] Chamberlain stopped warming up and watched him. I figured at that moment we were in pretty good shape.

“And then when he hit his first two shots, that was amazing, that took it to another level. And then Walt Frazier had the best seventh game of any player in history, picking up on that inspiration.”

In 650 career games with the Knicks, Reed averaged 18.7 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per outing. According to Bradley, though, his impact far exceeded the box score and all of his exploits on the court, too.

“He did that video for the 50th anniversary [celebration last month of the 1973 championship team] from his hospital,” Bradley said. “So that’s an example of how dedicated he was to the Knicks. Just an extraordinary human being.

“I was lucky to know him. Forget the championship, just as a human being.”

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